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Google Cloud renews commitment to helping enterprises decarbonise their IT infrastructure

Public cloud giant is making a series of tools available to users of its off-premise platforms that are designed to help them decarbonise their IT setups

Google Cloud is doubling down on its commitment to help enterprises decarbonise their operations by rolling out a series of sustainability-focused features to its platforms.

The public cloud giant used the first day of its virtual Google Cloud Next customer and partner conference to talk about the ongoing work it is doing to improve the sustainability of its operations, while also helping its customers to reach their own environmental goals.

As previously reported by Computer Weekly, the company went public in September 2020 with a commitment to “eliminate its carbon legacy” while taking steps to ensure that its entire operations – spanning datacentres and offices – run on carbon-free energy by 2030.

The company also revealed at the time that it was working on bringing to market tools that would help its customers measure the environmental impact of their Google cloud usage habits.

Some of these efforts have already seen the light of day, with Google Cloud revealing details of its Carbon Free Energy Percentage metric in March 2021, which is designed to show customers how much of the energy used to power its datacentre regions comes from renewable sources. The idea is for enterprises to use this data to make informed choices about where best to run their workloads from a sustainability perspective.

Further results of this work emerged during Google Cloud Next, with the company using the event to unveil a set of tools that are designed to help enterprise cloud customers minimise the environmental impact of their IT consumption habits.

The first of these tools is known as Carbon Footprint, which is available for free to every Google Cloud Platform (GCP) user, and enables them to track and report the gross carbon emissions generated by their cloud usage.

“With growing requirements for environmental social and governance reporting, companies are looking for ways to show their employees, boards and customers their progress against climate targets,” said Google in a blog post.

“Using Carbon Footprint, you have access to the gross energy-related emissions data you need for internal carbon inventories and external carbon disclosures, with one click.”

The offering has been built in collaboration with several high-profile GCP users, including IT services giant Atos, online marketplace provider Etsy, financial services behemoth HSBC, global cosmetics firm L'Oréal and social networking site Twitter, the company confirmed.

“You can use it to monitor your gross cloud emissions over time, by project, by product and by region, giving IT teams and developers metrics that can help them reduce their carbon footprint,” said the blog post.

The firm is also rolling out functionality to its cloud platform that will proactively alert customers to the existence of any idle cloud instances that are running within its infrastructure, and how much carbon they are emitting.

Read more about sustainability at Google Cloud

This offering, included as part of its Active Assist Recommender service, is designed so that customers can get a handle on how much of a contribution eradicating these idle instances will make towards curbing their organisation’s overall carbon emissions.

Known as the Unattended Project Recommended API, the feature uses machine learning to identify projects and compute resources that are still running, but are likely to have been abandoned based on their networking activity, billing, and the amount of cloud resources they are consuming.

“By deleting these projects, not only can you reduce costs and mitigate security risks, but you can also reduce your carbon emissions,” said the company.

“In August, Active Assist analysed the aggregate data from all customers across our platform, and over 600,000kg Co2e associated with projects that it recommended for clean-up or reclamation. If customers deleted these projects, they would significantly reduce future emissions.”

During the Google Cloud Next keynote, Sundar Pichai, CEO of Google Cloud’s parent company Alphabet, said he was “proud” of the great progress the firm had made to date with regard to bolstering the sustainability of its own operations.

“Google has been carbon neutral since 2007,” he said. “And we have matched our operations with 100% renewable energy for four consecutive years. Last year, we set out to make our third decade of climate action our biggest yet, which included a bold commitment to operate on 24/7 carbon-free energy across our offices and datacentres by 2030.”

These efforts have conspired to make “Google Cloud the cleanest cloud in the industry”, said Pichai, but tackling climate change is not something the company can do on its own.

“Climate change is one of the most profound challenges we face,” he added. “It will take all of us working together to solve it.”

Turning to the positive environmental impact that moving to the cloud can have, Pichai said: “For enterprises, one of the most important sustainability choices is where to run your technology. IDC predicts cloud migrations over the next four years could reduce carbon emissions by over one billion metric tonnes, or the equivalent of removing 200 million cars off the road for a year.”

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